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Castro’s attempted image makeover

Castro’s attempted image makeover

Yesterday I touched on Fidel Castro’s apology for anti-gay measures that occurred under his rule — including detaining gays in forced labor camps — calling it a “great injustice.” But this is not Castro’s only clarification of late. The former Cuban leader seems hellbent on crafting his legacy in a more positive light. Why the re-emergence, and why the rehabiliation campaign, now?

As revealed in La Jornado Monday, Castro was “at death’s door” in 2006. At the time,  speculation was rife that he had already died. Thus, it makes sense that Castro is pushing himself in the limelight — faced with death, the old revolutionary wants to clean up his name while he has a chance. There’s certainly also a chance that he has mellowed in his later years. As he’s no longer facing the threat of assassination, his stress levels have also probably declined some.

Perhaps most interesting are the pictures of Jeffrey Goldberg — yes, that Jeffrey Goldberg — accompanying the old revolutionary on various stops throughout Cuba. How Goldberg — rather than, you know, a journalist with a background in Cuban affairs — came to be side-by-side with Castro is a total mystery. But I’m sure we can look for Goldberg to illuminate his trip in the near future — though I imagine it’d garner a lot less interest than some of his other recent writings. (Council on Foreign Relations expert Julia E. Sweig was also on the trip.)

In addition to his comments on gay rights, Castro said during a press conference with Goldberg that he is by no means an anti-Semite:

I was never anti-Jewish and I share with him a deep hatred against Nazi-Fascism and the genocide perpetrated against the Jewish people by Hitler and his followers.

President Barack Obama has made tentative steps to end the hostility between Cuba and the United States, and Castro’s words may be a recognition of that. While his brother is now president, it’s obvious that Fidel’s words carry great weight in the island nation. Maybe it’s time for Obama to launch a more audacious foreign policy venture, one that may even bear some results: a direct meeting with Castro. Perhaps the old U.S. nemesis could aim to improve relations in his last years. More importantly, it’d prove that engagement is — as it should be — still a part of the Obama administration’s strategy, and it would send another signal to the rest of the world that, if you are reasonable, the United States will deal with you.